Cebu Island – Part 4: Snorkeling

It’s no secret that Dave and I love snorkeling.  The ocean life fascinates both of us, and although I can find it mildly anxiety inducing (I get claustrophobic), I never let it stop me from diving in, taking some deep yoga breaths and enjoying the world below the surface.

Usually, I relax as soon as I find an animal to follow.

The Philippines boasts some of the best snorkeling in the world, so we were very excited to see what there was to see off the coast of Cebu and Bohol Islands.  We had 3 snorkeling trips in total and I’m sad to say that only one of them was very enjoyable.

Punglao Snorkeling

Our first snorkeling trip was with our friends Deb and Dedrick off the coast of Bohol Island. They organized an exciting morning of snorkeling for us, which started with a boat ride through some rather choppy water, and ended up at a small island where there are sea turtles and plenty of ocean life to enjoy.

One of several turtles we spotted

This was our first snorkeling experience in The Philippines, and as is always the case when travelling…we had to learn the ropes.  Every country does things a bit differently.  In Thailand, we booked day tours that would take us out to several islands on a speedboat, and took us to several locations to snorkel.  In Indonesia, we did 2 nights in a boat to see the Manta Rays in Komodo National Park.  In Cuba, we often just snorkeled off the beach, or hopped on a Catamaran for a day trip to various small islands.  Usually, the prices of the trip, boat, food, park fees etc are included in the package price you pay for the day.

Things are done differently in the Philippines.  We were told we needed to pay 1800 pesos to rent a boat to get to the island where there are turtles and fish to see.   Then, we were told there was a fee to get into the park.  Then, when we arrived, we were told we needed to pay another boat to take us to the ACTUAL snorkeling area (another 800 pesos).  In total we ended up paying nearly $70 Canadian and there wasn’t a whole lot to see.

The second (smaller) boat we hired.  He actually had the guys swim back to the shore…I assert they should have been given a discount seeing as how they only get the service they paid for on the way there….

Unfortunately, the trip got worse, the longer we stayed in the water.  The boat we hired had a captain who wanted to go and take more tourists out to make more money…so after only 20 minutes of snorkeling, he was trying to get everyone back in the boat.  I obliged because I’d been stung by a few jellyfish and wasn’t feeling very well, but getting onto the boat was another ordeal yet.

We were on a boat similar to this one

Filipino fishing boats have wooden bars that come out on either side of the boat to  help stabilize them and prevent capsizes.  The captain of this boat wanted to ‘help’ me get back on, but instead, I ended up hanging off the side as he bashed me into the side of the boat repeatedly…bruising my ribs in the process.  My friend Deb wasn’t as badly hurt in her trip back onto the boat, but she also didn’t find the task easy either.  Both of the boys just swam the short way back, because it was a much safer choice.

"You've suffered a contusion to the soft tissue below the fourth thoracic vertebra exacerbating the proximal sternum. Translation: 'you have a bruised rib.'"

Lessons Learned: 

  1. Don’t bruise your ribs when snorkeling.
  2. Wear sunscreen…even when it’s cloudy (we were out of commission for a few days we burned so badly!!)
  3. Bring good people with you on trips like this so that even if the snorkeling isn’t fantastic…the company is!

Sumilon Island Snorkeling

Our second trip snorkeling was on Sumilon Island.  I wasn’t sure whether or not to count this as a ‘snorkeling trip’ though, because we never actually snorkeled.  Allow me to explain…

Sumilon Island is located off the coast of Cebu…near Oslob.

Sumilon Island is one of the things I’d read very little about.  We mostly went off of what locals told us….and it all sounded awesome!  We were told to expect:

  • Excellent snorkeling
  • An amazing beach with chairs set up for rental
  • Clear and calm water around the island where you can swim and snorkel

Of course, what we got was very different than what we expected.

As it turns out…it is a beautiful island and it does have amazing snorkeling…but only if you hire a boat (which we couldn’t do once we were there, from what we saw).  There was definitely no snorkeling from the shore because the water was simply too rough.  What’s worse, is that boats were coming and going constantly, taking up most of the public beach area.  They didn’t have anywhere to dock, so they’d just come up on the beach.

Although the island is quite big, only a small part of it is public beach.  This small area in the photo was the only place to swim without being at risk of being hit by a boat.  It was very shallow and there were thousands of sharp rocks to step on.

There were 0 chairs or umbrellas for rent.  We arrived at around 3pm, and were on the west side of the island, so it was HOT!!!

It turns out that the only way to get beach rentals was to book with the resort that’s only the island….which was WAY out of our budget.  So, instead of the amazing afternoon snorkeling we had planned, we crouched under an area of rocks for shade until the next boat came around.

Lesson Learned:  Do reading ahead of time!  You never know what information you might be missing that will greatly impact your day.   We would have had a MUCH different experience if we’d organized a snorkeling or diving tour.  This island is an AMAZING place to snorkel / dive if you do it right!!!

Tingko Snorkeling

Our best snorkeling adventure was the last thing we had time to do in the Philippines.  Tingko beach is just outside of Alcoy on Cebu Island.  Our bus back to Cebu city only left at around 4pm, so we decided to try snorkeling one more time before leaving the Philippines.

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Tingko Beach

We were a bit worried when we arrived, because once more, there was nowhere to set up or put our things.  There were also no umbrellas.  We were about to walk away when a young Filipino man came over and asked us if we’d like to hire him and his boat for some snorkeling.

I was VERY skeptical at first.  We asked him about a price, and it seemed a bit high, but he quickly lowered it (probably more than he needed to).   When he said he had a ladder to get in and out of his boat (to avoid further rib bashing), we agreed to hire him for an hour to do some snorkeling.  I was so glad we did!

A small Filipino fishing boat…similar to several others we were on

He brought us around to 3 different spots in that hour.  I only snorkeled at the first spot, because I wasn’t actually feeling very well that morning, but it was an amazing area to explore!  We actually even saw a sea snake swimming through the seaweed!  Unfortunately, we didn’t have the camera with us…but we’ve learned over the last few years that some experiences just need to be experienced.  The little snake swam away as quickly as he appeared, so I doubt we could have gotten any shots anyway.

Dave did get a shot of a clown fish in an anemone on one of his solo trips under the sea!

While Dave explored stops 2 and 3 on his own, I chatted with our captain.  He was no more than 25 years old, but has 4 children, all under the age of 5.  He told me how much he loves being a dad and how he adores going home and hearing his kids scream ‘Daddy!’ when they see him.  He seemed like a really nice person, and in the end, I paid him his original asking price.

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Cebu island from our little fishing boat

Lesson Learned:  Not everyone in the tourism industry is trying to rip you off.  Some people are just trying to make an honest living while trying to be a top-notch husband and father.

Alright….1 post left about our time in the Philippines!  Stay tuned!  I’ll be back before you know it!




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